Follower of Tony Alamo sued

Insurance company wants policy responsibility nullified

Arkansas/April 24, 2015

By John Lynch

An insurance company is suing a follower of imprisoned evangelist Tony Alamo to get a Pulaski County circuit judge to declare it has no responsibility to pay court judgments against the Fouke man's homeowner's policy that are based on accusations that he participated in the abuse of a dozen children, all of them members of Alamo's ministry.

Sandford Carl White, 71, of Fouke is one of Alamo's co-defendants in a year-old federal lawsuit in Texarkana filed by the children. White is one of seven individuals named in that suit, although it has a provision that could add as many as 20 more defendants.

The federal lawsuit does not identify any specific acts by White, but it includes him as a defendant through his participation in Tony Alamo Christian Ministries and as an officer in the ministries affiliate, Twenty First Century Holiness Tabernacle Church Inc. of Dyer.

The federal suit accuses the defendants of forcing the children to work without pay while profiting from their labor, illegally confining them against their will and controlling them through psychological duress and by inflicting serious harm with regular beatings or threatening such harm in a pattern of abuse at the Alamo Ministries compound between 2001 and 2008.

Alamo, 80, who was born Bernie Lazar Hoffman, is serving a 175-year federal prison term for taking girls he "married" when they were as young as 8 across state lines for sex between March 1994 and October 2005. He was convicted in a July 2009 jury trial on all charges, 10 counts of taking underage girls across state lines for sex.

A self-proclaimed prophet, Alamo's efforts to appeal the convictions to the U.S. Supreme Court were unsuccessful, but he continued to pursue other challenges to the legality of the proceedings through last year.

White, Alamo's bus driver, was a defense witness in the 10-day criminal trial. He told reporters at the trial's conclusion that the conviction would be overturned.

In the 33-page insurance suit filed Tuesday, Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. of Arkansas is petitioning Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray to retroactively cancel homeowner's coverage that the company provided for White and his wife, 64-year-old Terri Lee White, from 1996 through 2006. Terri White is not a party to the federal litigation.

The lawsuit claims the couple lied on their application that only they would live in their Pine Drive home, when in reality Tony Alamo and his ministries operated out of the house. A phone number for the Whites could not be found Wednesday.

The suit contends that the couple further breached their insurance agreement by promising Farm Bureau that no one in their household had ever been arrested or convicted of a felony, but when they acquired the policy in 1996, Alamo already had been convicted of felony child abuse in California and been arrested for threatening a federal judge.

The insurance policy contains a provision that voids coverage for concealment or fraud that should be applied, the suit states.

At the very least, Farm Bureau wants the judge to cancel the coverage it provided for the last six years that it serviced the Whites because the couple either gave or sold the home to another man, Steven J. Johnson, in February 2000 but did not inform the insurance company, the suit states. If the Farm Bureau had been told about the transfer in ownership, it would have ended the coverage then, according to the suit.

The company also wants the judge to declare the policy does not include coverage for any of the allegations against Sandford White or require Farm Bureau to pay for his defense in the federal suit.

Farm Bureau previously sued the Whites in 2012 in Pulaski County Circuit Court, seeking to nullify any claims brought against it on the same grounds in another federal lawsuit against Alamo that included both Whites as defendants.

The insurance company withdrew the lawsuit in March 2013, after the six plaintiffs in the other federal suit were barred by court order from making claims on the defendants' insurance in a ruling from Sebastian County Circuit Court that was upheld on appeal in March 2014 by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Those plaintiffs were six female church members who said they had been taken as Alamo's "spiritual wives" while they were girls, as well as a seventh who was being groomed to be an Alamo wife. Five of the plaintiffs testified at Alamo's criminal trial.

The bulk of their federal lawsuit, filed in 2010, was dismissed in January 2014, but the women took their remaining claims against the defendants to Miller County Circuit Court that same month. Three months later, when none of the defendants responded to that suit, the women were awarded $525 million in damages from Twenty First Century Tabernacle and Alamo in March 2014.

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